Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced late Thursday that she will support witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, making her decision ahead of a pivotal vote expected Friday that will hinge on the decisions of a handful of senators.

“We have heard the cases argued and the questions answered,” Collins said in a statement released at the end of a question-and-answer phase of the trial. “In keeping with the model used for the impeachment trial of President Clinton, at this point, senators are able to make an informed judgment about what is in dispute and what is important to the underlying issues.

“I worked with colleagues to ensure the schedule for the trial included a guaranteed up-or-down vote on whether or not to call witnesses. I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity. Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed.

“If this motion passes, I believe that the most sensible way to proceed would be for the House managers and the president’s attorneys to attempt to agree on a limited and equal number of witnesses for each side. If they can’t agree, then the Senate could choose the number of witnesses.”

Collins is among three Republican senators seen as likely to vote with Democrats and call for witnesses in the trial. Friday’s expected vote would require four Republicans to vote in favor of witnesses in order for the motion to pass.

That prospect seemed increasingly unlikely Thursday night after Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee announced he would not support witness testimony.

Collins’ decision, and the timing of it, is not surprising as she has advocated since before the trial started for it to follow the same framework as the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, in which a vote on whether to call witnesses was held after opening arguments and the questioning phase.

Democrats and critics had argued for witness testimony to be established when the trial rules were first negotiated last week.

In a statement issued late Thursday night, Maine Democratic Party Executive Director Lisa Roberts said, “If Senator Collins votes to acquit the President without hearing from witnesses, she’ll be making clear once again that she will always side with Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.”

The pressure on Collins has intensified as she faces a divided Senate as well as a competitive re-election bid this fall with opponents already focused on her controversial 2018 vote to support Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Collins has been consistent in saying she would “likely” vote for witnesses, including on Monday when new reports of an unpublished book manuscript by former national security adviser John Bolton tied the president’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine to the country’s investigation of Democratic political rivals.

Earlier in the trial, Collins voted to table numerous amendments to trial rules that would have secured individual witness testimony from the start of the trial, including from Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and aide Robert Blair.

However, she also worked with fellow Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to secure language in the trial rules for a vote on witnesses and documents after the question-and-answer phase of the trial.

On Wednesday, she joined Romney and Murkowski in posing the opening question, asking about the president’s motive and how senators should consider multiple motives in assessing the House’s charge of abuse of power.

The three senators are seen as likely Republicans who could vote with Democrats. In recent days Romney has been vocal about pushing for witnesses, while Murkowski reportedly met Wednesday with Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been pressuring members of his party to oppose witnesses.

 


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